Several hundred people, many of them teenagers from schools across Bulloch County, gathered Monday night on the grounds of Statesboro High to pray, light candles and remember Jordan Aubrey.
The vigil was planned while the 17-year-old Jordan remained in critical condition from head injuries as a result of an accident that reportedly left him lying on a street near a Statesboro car wash Saturday night. But he died at Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah early Monday afternoon. Although he had just started his senior year at Portal Middle High School, Jordan attended Statesboro schools through his freshman year at Statesboro High and had friends at other schools through sports and a religious group.
"Some of the best things about Jordan: He was always there, even when you were really upset, to put a smile on your face," said Alex Wagner, 17, a Statesboro High senior. "He'd walk up and say some goofy joke that made absolutely no sense, but it would make you laugh."
Alex and Jordan had been friends since they met in a Kindermusik program at age 1.
Alex and L.A. Anderson, a Southeast Bulloch High School senior, hugged and consoled each other, and other friends, before and after their remarks.
After reading passages from scripture, a still tearful L.A. said, "Jordan will always be my brother."
They had played All Stars Soccer together years before high school.
"Hey there, good buddy!" was a favorite catchphrase of Jordan's, his friends recalled.
Before concluding, "Rest in peace, good buddy," Becky Channell, one of Jordan's classmates from Portal, shared another observation.
"It was awesome to see the effect he had on every single person he met and the way he treated everyone like they were important to him," she said.
Accident details sketchy
Details of the accident have not been released by official sources. A brief statement issued by the Statesboro Police Department said the incident occurred near the Clean Getaway Car Wash on South Zetterower Avenue. An investigation into the incident is continuing, police said.
The incident report identified a 2013 Kia Sportage as somehow involved but did not describe what happened. The report gave the incident time as 10:59 p.m. and stated that the victim was lying in the roadway when the Emergency Medical Service arrived. He was transported to East Georgia Regional Medical Center and then transferred to Memorial in Savannah.
Monday afternoon, Alex's father, Rob Wagner, served as a spokesman for the Aubreys. He conveyed a wish by phone from Jordan's parents, Josh and Penny, brother Kyler and sister Sloan for those who would attend the vigil
"The family would like them to remember just how much Jordan loved them all and how proud he was to call them all friends," Wagner said.
Wagner said the Aubreys had one more thought to share.
"Even though they are overwhelmed, they maintain their faith in God, and they know that God has a great plan, a stupendous, amazing plan for Jordan," Wagner said.
Young Life, a nondenominational Christian outreach that Jordan was involved in for several years, planned the vigil. Statesboro High was chosen because of its central location and ample parking for the friends of a young man who had many, said Young Life Statesboro area director Michael Edwards.
"We just really wanted to give an opportunity for his friends and people in the community that were friends of the family to come together and pray for them and support them and just let kids share stories and things like that in a way to honor them," Edwards said before the vigil.
Jordan volunteered with Special Olympics for four years and developed a "tremendous bond" with his older brother Kyler, who has cerebral palsy, Josh Aubrey said.
Each year the brothers traveled to Fort Myers, Florida, together to see the Boston Red Sox in spring training, Edwards related.
Jordan also was a member of the Beta Club and of Youth Leadership Bulloch.
He kicked extra points for Statesboro High as a freshman and battled back from a severe hip injury to kick for Portal in last year's football season. Jordan played on three area soccer championship teams for William James Middle and two championship football teams.
When Sloan and Kyler Aubrey showed up together on the edge of the circle at Monday night's vigil, students and other friends quickly flocked around them, with many hugs.
Jordan's grandmother, Dixie Aubrey, spoke briefly to the crowd.
"Jordan will live on," she said. "He had checked the box on his driver's license to be an organ donor, and they told Josh today that he will save 10 lives."
Jim Healy, operations manager of the Statesboro Herald, where Josh Aubrey has worked since 2012, provided a statement earlier.
"Our hearts and prayers go out to Josh and his family," Healy said. "This unimaginable tragedy is almost impossible to comprehend. It is heartbreaking."
Bulloch County Schools Superintendent Charles Wilson also issued a statement. Penny Aubrey is special education coordinator at Portal Middle High.
"We are very saddened for the entire Aubrey family," Wilson said. "Josh and Penny Aubrey and their family are part of our family. They have served our school system and the Bulloch County Foundation for Public Education in many ways for many years and their children have graced our school hallways. Our Bulloch County Schools family joins the community in lifting them up through thoughts, support and prayers."
The school system had made plans to shift counselors, as needed, from other schools to talk to grieving students.
"Beginning today, we have been providing extra administrative and counseling support for students, staff and faculty at Portal Middle High School and other schools as needed," Wilson said.
Jim Healy and Holli Saxon contributed to this story.
Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.